How To Use Your Fitness Tracker
Only a few years ago it seemed advances in fitness technology were confined to the gym. Fancy new cable machines, vibrating plates, and shake weights seemed to typify the cutting edge of exercise tech. And while a good deal of incredible innovation continues in this regard, like the impact-free Zero Runner from Octane, a new kind of fitness gadget has taken the industry by storm.
We refer, of course, to fitness and activity trackers like the Fitbit or Polar Loop. These wearable devices, along with their app and website counterparts, are empowering individuals to take charge of their fitness, health, and weight-loss goals through the power of data. Indeed, the NPD Connected Intelligence Consumers and Wearables Report points out that one in 10 adult Americans now own a fitness tracker, and the market for such devices is expected to grow to $2.8 billion by 2019 according to IHS Technology.
However, fitness trackers by themselves are not enough to help you reach your health and fitness goals. Although these gadgets do provide a wealth of information with which to make informed decisions about your exercise routine and food choices, we wanted to share with you five best practices so that you can make the most of your new fitness tracker.
1. Set Your Goals
No matter how state-of-the-art the latest fitness wearables and apps may be, they are next to useless if you don’t know what you want to accomplish. Do you want to lose weight? Maintain your current weight? Run a six-minute mile? Run a marathon? Knowing your goals ahead of time is absolutely essential, and the more quantifiable and specific your goal is, the better.
Once you’ve determined your goals, choose the technology that will be most helpful to you in reaching this goal. Not all fitness trackers and mobile apps are created equal. For example, most activity monitors can tell you things like how many steps you’ve taken, how many miles you’ve ran or walked, and how many calories you’ve burned. However, many of these monitors only estimate caloric expenditure by inference, based on your height, weight, age, sex, and the amount of motion it detects. To get a more accurate estimate of how many calories you’ve burned, and to account for athletic activity that is not directly correlated to steps (for example weight lifting), you’ll want a tracker that can also monitor your heart rate like the Polar Loop Activity Tracker.
Sign up for the HealthStyles Exercise monthly newsletter to keep up with our latest sales, deals, and discounts on items like the Polar Loop!
2. Create a Baseline
So you’ve got a brand new fitness tracker. Your first instinct is to slap it on and hit the ground running with an intense workout. Resist the urge!
In order to determine the best course of action to meet your health and fitness goals, you first need a baseline to reference. Therefore, rather than trying to impress your activity tracker with how active you are, wear it for a week without changing anything about your normal daily routine. Don’t be discouraged if the numbers are a little disappointing. That’s OK. The first step in meeting your fitness goals is knowing where you’re starting from.
You know your goals. You have your baseline. Now it’s time to start! However, don’t try to bite off more than you can chew at the beginning. Most activity trackers come with a default initial goal, like walking 10,000 steps in one day. If your baseline shows you only walk 3,000 steps a day on average, then trying to hit 10,000 steps on day 1 may be too aggressive. Instead, work your way up by adding 500 steps each day until you hit that magic number.
Similarly, if your tracker includes a heart rate monitor, don’t try to hit your maximum heart rate for every minute of your workout. Working out too hard will leave you feeling spent and unwilling to exercise the next day, while taking it too easy will keep you from meeting your goal. In general, you should aim to train within 65-85% of your maximum heart rate (220 minus your age). This way you can work out for the longest amount of time and burn the most calories possible without burning yourself out.
4. Record and Review Everything
Self-monitoring your exercise has always been a key component of getting into shape. And while these activity trackers automate a lot of this for you, you cannot delegate all responsibility to your wristband. If your goal is weight-oriented, then recording the amount of calories you burn is not enough. You also need to record the amount of calories you consume. Most fitness wearables have a food diary built-in, but there are also stand-alone apps like MyFitnessPal that integrate with many of the top devices.
Furthermore, don’t be satisfied with simply checking your daily stats. For the best results, take advantage of some of the detailed analytics your fitness tracker can provide. Look at the charts and graphs to give you a picture of your progress over time, to reveal times of the day when you are excessively stationary, and to discover opportunities for getting more steps in or calories burned.
Check out our selection of top-of-the-line heart rate monitors!
5. Be Social
Training in isolation can be comforting for those of us who are embarrassed about their current health and fitness levels, but it can also make it easier to lose your motivation, or even cheat your results. With more and more websites and programs that deliver workout routines right to your desktop, it’s easier than ever to avoid human contact while you work out.
However, training with other people, sharing your progress, and having a coach are some of the best ways to keep you focused and honest. Luckily, many fitness trackers have social sharing elements baked in, allowing you to see how your progress compares to that of your friends and thereby motivate you to keep up the hard work. For example, the Fitbit app and website can display a leaderboard that ranks you and your friends in terms of how many steps you’ve taken in the past seven days, adding a competitive element to your training. Online programs like Vida Health Coach or RevUp pair you with personal coaches and other health professionals who can keep you motivated and provide you with personalized tips and advice.
Ready to take your workout to the next level? Then check out the selection of Polar heart rate monitors and activity trackers. Talk to one of our fitness professionals for some personalized tips on how to incorporate your activity tracker into your workout routine, and discover some of the best equipment to help you meet your goals.